Synodality

North Warrandyte, where I live, is an edgy kind of place right on the edge of metropolitan Melbourne. Australia Post and the Nillumbik Council don’t like our bumpy street , so once a week  we half dozen home-owners trundle our correctly coloured bins down to the corner and, when we remember, pick up mail from the row of letter boxes on the same corner. Living here suits me, thanks in part to the internet that opens me out to the world beyond  this little valley.

Monday to Friday the Cath News website keeps me in touch with my catholicity and that’s the place I began to notice a word that was new to me- synodal. It constantly popped up in churchy words from Bishops and lay people, accompanied by  invitations to participate In zoom sessions about synodality. To quote Pope Francis, synodality is  “an invitation to all Catholics to be united in harmonious diversity, where everyone can actively participate and where everyone has something to contribute.”

If there is to be synodality, then our religious faith needs to be adult, something we own, not a long ago ritual in which we had no say. The mix of childhood memories, ideas, beliefs, devotions, church-words and  beliefs peculiar to different times and places that we inherited, needs to be sifted for truth and relevance in the everydayness of our adult lives.

 Adult faith is not an affirmation of a creed, an intellectual acceptance of God, or believing certain doctrines to be true or orthodox, although those things might well be good. It means moving to the deepest part of oneself, the place where we are most ourselves and where we can safely acknowledge our fears, our addictions, our insecurities, our memories, as we grapple with the mystery we call God.

Faith cannot be lived in isolation from who and where we are.  That’s where the basics of faith lie hidden and that’s especially true for women, who are more inclined to embody faith than males who have been mostly responsible for distorting it into an exacting and negative rule book. Core beliefs, like Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, sin and forgiveness and prayer are givens, but some customs and traditions that have grown out of those doctrines really miss the point.

As my faith has unfolded from the institutional approach taught and caught in my family and school , and on through what has been a smorgasbord of faith experiences, I’ve discovered that the creedal basics of my childhood religious faith haven’t changed. How I experience and live them has. Today, if I was asked about my religious beliefs, it would go something like this.

I believe that God is the name we give to the mysteries in which we live–mysteries like LOVE that  is always there, somewhere, if I look closely enough, in the mystery of LIFE that keeps on renewing itself, showing me God’s face in the majesty of rolling surf, the peace of early morning mist playing hide and seek with the trees, the joy in the faces of children at play in the most unlikely of places.  God is in somewhere in the fleeting memory of the one-on-one closeness of my new-born self and my mother that is imprinted in me, an all-is-well feeling that I sometimes experience.

I believe that Jesus is God-made-man. By today’s measure he lived a very short life before being executed by a foreign power with the connivance of the Jewish religious authorities, and then regained life- and that’s another mystery.  I believe Jesus left us the blueprint for a life that had one, all-encompassing message: Love one another.

Just this month, Jessie Rogers an Irish biblical scholar speaking about synodality, said that if catholics “hold on too tightly to how God acted in the past, they might overlook the new thing that God is doing in the present”.

 It seems to me I’ve been on an edge for a long time, waiting for the Catholic Church to begin its return to its roots, respect listening and cherish diversity. It’s called synodality.

Judith Scully

Sunflower

Once upon a time, as the calendar moved slowly into the week before Easter, I knew what to expect. Holy Week, seven days commencing with Palms on the Sunday and punctuated by Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday or Easter Vigil, coming to a climax in a week of chocolately Easter alleluias. That was then.

Once upon a later time I was involved in planning Holy Week parish liturgical celebrations. They sit there in my memory – words, music and actions, creative, well-planned, occasionally lop-sided, stretching to link Jesus’ death and resurrection, traditional practices, do-not-meddle-with liturgical rubrics and reality. But within a few years diocesan guidelines had faded anything so innovative into nothing.  

Those years of faithful liturgical celebration had changed me. Where I had once equated religious faith with fidelity to liturgical practices, now the Gospel story of Jesus’ last days culminating in the joyful but hard-to-believe resurrection, had gradually woven its way into my everyday. And what an everyday 2022 has been so far!

The first Holy Week was set in world where betrayal, abandonment, mockery, violence and ultimately death changed the course of history. This year, across the world, people have experienced that and more. Many millions suddenly and unexpectedly are losing so much, if not everything.

Maybe personally, but mostly via endless social media bulletins and updates, our carefree, safe lives have been infiltrated by the on-going-ness of Covid, devastating floods, the terror and brutality of Russia’s bid to control Ukraine and now the tiring speechmaking that is the current face of Australian politicking in the lead-up to an election.

It’s a liminal space, a Holy Saturday space. We are called to live it with compassion as we sit and stand and live out our lives in solidarity with those who are living in grief for what has been lost, before moving into hope for the future. Without security they are living on the edge.

I think being open to the gap that exists between the religious traditions of my baptismal faith and life as it opens out in front of me, is what living on the edge means to me. Living on the edge has given me the space to recognise and to depth the Holy Week story as it unfolds, not just across one week, but 24/7. It means too, that I’ve experienced the security of some faith beliefs being washed away like a low-lying house in the recent Queensland floods. It’s gone, and all one holds dear has gone with it.  Like that first Easter week and as the Apostles found out for themselves, it’s not easy to recognise the resurrected Jesus when your eyes are on the crucified Jesus.  

There will  be no Easter eggs tucked away behind the rocky outcrops and  skinny gum trees around our house this Sunday, thanks to a family seven day Covid lockdown, but there are sunflowers in a vase. Those flowers are my prayer for peace in war ravaged Ukraine.

I wish you a balanced Easter, sprinkled with gratitude for the gifts that come wrapped with God’s name on the accompanying card.

Judith                        judith@judithscully.com.au

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